Letter to the editor: The difficulty of appreciating wine under lockdown
By Christian Eedes, 21 April 2020
I’m tired of seeing your lockdown wines.
Not because you want to show the world what you’re drinking. And not because you’re hell bent on enjoying great wine in the age of Corona. These make complete sense.
No, the irritation is subtle. A clawing, nagging feeling that we’re not being honest with each other.
Our best wines are cellared away from home. Because there’s little temptation to get stuck into that last Chassagne Montrachet when you’re not staring at it everyday. But with the end of the world approaching, I withdrew 24 assorted bottles for lockdown. Enthusiastically – and fortuitously as we were to discover – deciding that there was no better time to dip into the good stuff.
And over the last four weeks, that’s exactly what I’ve done.
A few nights ago, a cork was pulled on one of those Zoom calls with some of my closest friends. We all love wine, and as ever it formed the basis of another great chat. The theme was – and I’m paraphrasing “I used to not really like this style, but I’ve broadened my horizons”.
Each bottle opened designed to raise eyebrows. For the record, they were as follows:
2011 Warwick White Lady Chardonnay
2016 Alheit Hemelrand
2018 Olivia Malbec from Argentina
2015 Kanonkop Paul Sauer
It was a memorable evening with plenty of laughs and lively discussion. But when the topic changed to the bottle of wine we’ve most enjoyed during lockdown, well we chewed through that like it was a glass of 4th Street semi sweet.
Eventually there were some exciting answers: Aged Burgundies from Newman and Domaine de Perdrix, a Restless River Ava Marie and Eben’s Treinspoor.
But even that exceptional 2015 Tinta Barocca was underwhelming. Because every bottle opened under lockdown has been underwhelming.
And for the first time that evening there was unanimous agreement. We had proudly shown off all of the wonderful things we’d been drinking, but without telling the whole story. Which was that the wines we had liberated from confinement hadn’t quite delivered on our expectations. And as we sat there, looking at each other through our computer screens, the reason was staring us in the face.
Think about the your best wine experiences. The one thing they’re likely to have in common is that they don’t have a whole lot in common. Different places. Different people. Spontaneity and surprise. A convergence of dynamic factors that put you in the right frame of mind. And a great bottle, of course.
We don’t have the luxury to get the best out of wine right now. Even if you are enjoying house arrest, even if you love your own company – and those you share home with – there are a few intangibles missing. Some of them are easy to explain. Others are impossible to identify.
For those privileged enough to be talking about how lockdown affects the enjoyment of fine wine, lockdown is a relative breeze. But it still takes a toll. We all experience various levels of guilt, anxiety, frustration and uncertainty. Throw in groundhog day, and is it any wonder that bottle doesn’t quite strike the chord you were expecting?
So keep posting those pictures. Just be sure to recognize that sharing impulse before you submit to it. Pause to consider where it’s coming from. Acknowledge how it makes you feel.
And by all means, continue to deplete your cellar. Drink the good stuff like there’s no tomorrow. Just keep a few bottles in case there is.
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